Four Iranians are on a hunger strike and have sewn their lips together with fishing wire to protest the UK's plans to deport them back to Iran. They are among six Iranians who are now in their sixteenth day of hunger striking; all say that they have been beaten and tortured after attending anti-regime protests that swept their country following the presidential election in 2009. One hunger striker, 17-year-old Mahyar Meyari, also says that he was raped after participating in a demonstration.
Another hunger striker, Keyvan Bahari, is described by the Guardian as a "former champion wrestler who ran his own training centre in Tehran." The Guardian notes that he spoke to reporters with difficulty, as his lips were already sore and infected from the fishing wire. He described twelve days of being slashed by razor blades while being detained by Iranian authorities and says:
"We have sewn our mouths because there is no other way....Nobody in the UK hears us or cares what we say so we have no other option but to do this."Bahari, who is camping out in front of the camping out on the pavement outside the Lunar House immigration center in Croydon, also holds the US and the UK accountable for saying they supported the students' protests and then, as he says, "'[washing] their hands'" of the protesters:
"When I was back in Tehran, I was seeing Obama and British officials on our illegal satellite TVs, encouraging us day in day out to continue our protest. They said that they will support us but now that I'm stuck in here and need help, they are nowhere."Bahari and the other protesters are taking liquids but doctors say they will deteriorate quickly.
The protesters have had all had their asylum claims turned down; some are appealing; they say they feel "'let down'" by the British legal system and the lawyers appointed to represent them:
Campaigners say the UK hunger strike is a sign of the increasing desperation among Iranian asylum seekers. One man died after setting himself alight in Amsterdam this month and 25 Iranians sewed their lips together in Greece in an attempt to secure refugee status. The Medical Foundation, which is preparing a report on Meyari's condition for his next appeal, says 293 Iranians were referred to the organisation for help in 2010.
Lying in the tent, Mahyar said the UK hunger strikers, like many fellow Iranians, were prepared for drastic action. "I prefer to die here than going back to Iran. I'll continue this protest until somebody comes here and asks me why I'm doing this, until somebodycares [sic] about what has happened to me."Please sign the petition to grant asylum to the six Iranian protesters---because somebody does care.